Heard of Kola Aluko? Nope, he’s not a koala bear celebrity, let alone a new product of Coca Cola. Never mind, forget him. How about Jho Low? If you had no idea who the hell is Jho Low, chances are you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years. While you can be forgiven for not knowing Kola Aluko, there’s no reason you can be ignorant about Jho Low.
Actually both Kola Aluko and Jho Low have many things in common. Not trying to be racist here but while Jho Low is white (a Malaysian Chinese), Kola Aluko is black (a Nigerian). That’s perhaps the biggest difference between both individuals. Okay, perhaps Mr. Low isn’t that white when compared to Leonardo DiCaprio and Mr. Aluko isn’t that black when compared to Don Cheadle.
“Black or White” – one of Michael Jackson’s songs – would give a new meaning when applied to Kola Aluko and Jho Low. It’s true that it “doesn’t matter if you’re black or white”. When crooked minds think alike, they could be as dangerous as Michael’s Dangerous album. Interestingly, both Jho Low and Kola Aluko made their ill-gotten money in oil industry, in their respective country.
Jho Low and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak have been caught stealing, laundering and siphoning as much as US$4.5 billion from 1MDB, disguised under a joint venture with PetroSaudi International Ltd. The US Department of Justice confirmed the deal was merely a “pretence” for “the fraudulent transfer of more than US$1-billion from 1MDB to a Swiss bank account” controlled by Low.
Kola Aluko, on the other hand, was exposed of working with close associate Olajide Omokore (profiled by Forbes as one of “Ten Nigerian Multi-Millionaires You’ve Never Heard Of”) to pay bribes to former Nigeria’s petroleum minister Alison-Madueke in return for contracts from a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp to shell companies owned by both men.
Jho Low (full name: Low Taek Jho) and Kola Aluko (full name: Kolawole Akanni Aluko) are now in hiding. The 35-year-old Mr. Low and 47-year-old Mr. Aluko are being targeted by the U.S. government, coincidently, under the same U.S.-DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. However, the Nigerian crook isn’t as lucky as the Malaysian villain.
While Kola Aluko is being hunted by the U.S. government as well as the Nigerian government, which intends to recover US$1.76 billion from him and his close associate Olajide Omokore, the Malaysian government isn’t interested in arresting Jho Low, despite missing at least US$4.5 billion, for obvious reason. Jho Low’s partner in crime is the Prime Minister Najib Razak himself.
Another similarity among young crooks is that they like rubbing shoulders with Hollywood celebrities. The Nigerian oil mogul Aluko once rumoured to be in romance with supermodel Naomi Campbell. The duo was spotted on a shopping spree in Paris and later in London. In 2013 he was reported to have spent US$1.5 million on champagne at Leonardo DiCaprio’s 39th birthday party.
Interestingly, the Malaysian businessman Jho Low was at the same DiCaprio’s birthday party too. It was not an ordinary birthday party where birthday boy blew the candles. It was a wild party where there were probably 20 girls to every guy, so you can bet your last penny that DiCaprio, Aluko and Low got their respective satisfying b*** jobs.
Yes, it was the same wild party where Jho Low rubbed shoulders with Paris Hilton and competed with Kola Aluko on US$25,000-a-piece bottles of champagne. But Jho Low took the extravagant partying to a new level when he rented 2 jumbo jets so that he and his (crooked) friends could celebrate New Year 2013 twice on the same day – jetting off from Las Vegas to Sydney and back.
Unlike the lucky Mr. Aluko who struck jackpot dating Naomi Campbell, however, romance star has not been generous with Mr. Low. The playboy wannabe Jho Low had tried to win the heart of famous Taiwanese Mandopop singer Elva Hsiao with money – but failed spectacularly – despite throwing everything, including the kitchen sink.
Apparently, Jho Low had reportedly spent £1 million (US$1.3 million; RM5.6 million) in a engagement proposal on the private beach of Atlantis, The Palm, off the coast of Dubai, where the couple arrived in Rolls-Royce, strolled on the romantic beach, “bling-bling” of Valentine heart shape candles and even parachutists descend from the sky, James Bond style, presenting Hsiao with Chopard jewellery.
Ms. Hsiao was moved to the brink of tears, but wasn’t enough to move her heart to accept the crooked Jho Low, who also failed to woo American bad girl Paris Hilton. Despite rejecting his proposal stunt, telling the gluten Mr. Low that she only considered him as a “little brother”, the Taiwanese beauty found it worthwhile dating Taiwanese actor Kai Ko, who is 12 years her junior.
Jho Low also tried his luck on supermodel Miranda Kerr, showering her with a US$1.3 million 11.72-carat heart-shaped diamond on Valentine’s Day 2014 – shortly after her divorce from actor Orlando Bloom. Married to Evan Spiegel (billionaire founder of Snapchat) instead, Kerr has now returned US$8.1 million worth of jewels – gifted by Jho Low – to U.S.-DOJ for their investigation.
Like Nigerian Kola Aluko who owned Galactica Star, a luxury yacht worth US$80 million, which he once rented to Jay Z and his wife, Beyonce for close to a million dollars during a holiday last year, Malaysian Jho Low also has his own luxury yacht. Mr. Low’s Equanimity was grander and more expensive, costing US$250 million, and is the 54th largest yacht in the world.
Of course, both crooks owned tons of properties bought with their ill-gotten fortune. In addition to his yacht, the U.S.-DOJ is aiming to auction Mr. Aluko’s US$50.9 million One57 penthouse in New York City. That building currently holds the record for the most-expensive residential sale in New York following a US$100.5 million apartment purchase in 2014.
Aluko’s US$50.9 million condo is also the 8th most expensive in the building. Other properties in the U.S. owned by the Nigerian crook are 1049 Fifth Avenue, New York; 1948 & 1952 Tolls Avenue, Santa Barbara, California; and several in Los Angeles, including 815 Cima Del Mundo; 755 Sarbonne Road; and 952 North Alpine Drive.
In the United Kingdom, court documents say Aluko bought a house in Grove End Road, London NW. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Nigerian allegedly bought a house at 4100 Let Revenge, Dubai. He is also accused of buying a property at Collina D’oro Montagnola in Switzerland, and a piece of land in Mont Tremblant, Canada.
Jho Low’s properties acquisition isn’t that far away from impressive. His London penthouse with views of Buckingham Palace served as headquarters of the Myla Group, Rosmah Mansor’s (PM Najib Razak’s wife) favourite underwear company. Located on Stratton Street opposite the Ritz hotel in the upmarket Mayfair district, Low’s other assets included office building and another flat.
A stake in Park Lane Hotel and a US$43 million penthouse at Time Warner Centre in New York are among properties in America that the U.S. government plans to seize from Jho Low. A hotel in Beverly Hills and a US$55mil Los Angeles mansion formerly owned by Fantasy Island actor Ricardo Montalban are also on the U.S.-DOJ radar.
U.S.-DOJ is eyeing at least US$650 million in real estate and business investments acquired with funds stolen from Jho Low’s home country, including a US$107 million interest in EMI Music Publishing. But the lifestyle of the rich and famous crooks would not complete without a private jet, would it? So yes, Jho Low bought a US$35 million Bombardier Global 5000 jet with money stolen from 1MDB.
On the other hand, the U.S. government is also on a mission to seize Nigerian Aluko’s private jets – a Bombardier Global Express S5-GMG and a Bombardier Global 6000 9H-OPE, the same way Low’s private jet is being seized. Unlike Jho Low, Aluko had spent substantial stolen funds on 58 exotic cars and expensive watches.
The Prime Minister Najib Razak’s best friend, however, made up his lack of interest in exotic cars with arts, including hundreds of millions of dollars worth of major Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Claude Monet paintings. The problem with these young crooks is they couldn’t keep a low profile and would always too eager to show off their newly stolen wealth.
Nigerian Kola Aluko would not have had attracted the wrong attention had he listened to Oil Minister Alison-Madueke. Yes, even the corrupt Nigerian minister was flabbergasted with Aluko’s high profile that he had tried to warn the playboy and Omokore against spending lavishly – especially on the Galactica Star. She said – “If you want to hire a yacht, you lease it for two weeks or whatever.”
Like Aluko who imagined a big boat would help him hang out with the big boys of international celebrity, Low have had spent too much time rubbing shoulders with Paris Hilton. Both had attracted the unwanted attentions. Kola Aluko has been declared a wanted fugitive by Nigerian authorities. While Jho Low is still being protected by Malaysian PM Najib, the U.S. government has a different idea.
So the next time you think Nigeria is a pariah nation due to the infamous Nigerian Scams, think again. At least they hunt down crooks and prosecute their former Oil Minister Alison-Madueke. Malaysian Scams are more frightening and dangerous because it’s the head of state – Prime Minister Najib Razak – who’s in the driver seat stealing and plundering.